(Probably) the smallest server in the world

This weekend, I set up my new network attached storage (NAS) unit, which may well qualify as one of the world’s smallest (and least expensive) servers. It’s a Linksys Network Storage Link for USB 2.0 Disk Drives (NSLU2), coupled with one of my ultra-portable external storage devices.

The NSLU2 is a low-cost device for converting any USB storage into NAS. It is basically a tiny Linux server with an 10/100 Ethernet port and two USB 2.0 connections (mine cost £59.99 from Amazon). What’s more, it seems to have developed quite a following with those who are hacking the device to make it a more useful Linux server.

The NSLU2 gets slated in a CNET review, but basically you get what you pay for and for this price I’m not sure that you can really go wrong. It seemed to me that most of the CNET feedback was from consumers (with limited technical knowledge) who expected to connect their FAT or NTFS-formatted USB disks and access them across the network. The NSLU2 won’t let you do that as it uses the Linux ext3 file system, but once formatted on the NSLU2 they should still be readable on a Windows system with an appropriate file system driver.

Having said that, Linksys do not help themselves and much of the negative feedback will be down to the terrible documentation supplied with the product. I needed to carry out some Internet research before I could get mine working using two important pieces of information:

  • It initially uses an IP address of 192.168.1.77/24 (not DHCP). To change that using thesupplied software you need your client to be on the same subnet. Alternatively just go to http://192.168.1.77/ and it will launch straight into the web interface.
  • The initial administration username and password are both set to “admin”.

I’m not going to provide a full review as there are some good ones out there already – the best ones that I’ve found have been at MacOS X Hints (concise) and at Tom’s Networking (more extensive).

Basically, for low-cost NAS, the NSLU2 is great; but it is definitely for a SOHO environment only, and I’m already looking at the Buffalo LinkStation Network Storage Center for when I need some more storage in a few months time. The main reason I didn’t go with the LinkStation from the start is that it’s a £220 investment and for £60 my NSLU2 will keep me going for a few months until it starts a new life as a Linux project.

Links

Linksys Network Storage Link for USB 2.0 Disk Drives
Linksys NSLU2 datasheet
Hacking the NSLU2: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5
Linux on the NSLU2
NSLU2 Linux
Buffalo LinkStation Network Storage Center

4 thoughts on “(Probably) the smallest server in the world


  1. I’ve just bought my NSLU2 this week – and I can’t wait for it to arrive.
    I’ve bought a LaCie external USB hard disk to go with it and I hope to use it to share/centralise my music collection amongst my many devices.

    I have read articles which state that the NSLU2 can be hacked to turn it into a bit of a media center, which would be very useful indeed. Without having yet received mine, I can only say that I’m excited by its potential.

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